Truman had ordered her to sit on the couch at one point and sat beside her, threatening to hold her down if she didn’t stop pacing. “Give me your hand,” he commanded.

She’d given him an odd look but held out a hand. “Now lean your head back, close your eyes, and . . . count pieces of wood as you imagine swinging your ax.” She’d snorted. He’d grabbed her mother’s hand lotion from the end table, squeezed some into his hand, and started to massage her fingers and palm.

Mercy instantly melted. “Holy crap. Where’d you learn that?”

“Close your eyes.”

“Done.” His fingers were brutal as they stroked and rubbed.

“Swinging your ax?”

“Yes,” she muttered. “Don’t stop.” It was nearly painful. Every joint she’d abused with swing after swing of the ax was melting into a pool of butter.

“My mother used to do this for me when I worked for the Highway Department in high school. I used a shovel all summer. My hands would cramp every night.”

Mercy couldn’t think of an answer.

Then a low voice was calling her name, and she woke with her head on Truman’s shoulder as they lay on the sofa. Actually she was glued to his side from the hip up. She sat up, feeling the cold as she left his body heat. “Levi?” she whispered. Faint light illuminated a silhouette squatting in front of her.

“I need to talk to you. Outside.”

“What happened?” Shock jolted her fully awake. “Did they find Rose? Is she okay?”

“No word on Rose,” he whispered.

She deflated.

“Come with me.” He took her hand and pulled.

Mercy stood and yawned. “What time is it?”

“Almost five.”

“Mercy?” Truman spoke behind her. “What’s going on?”

“Nothing,” she said. “They haven’t found Rose. I’m going to talk with Levi.”

“Shouldn’t I hear this too, Levi?” Truman asked.

Mercy froze at the suspicion in his voice. She met Levi’s gaze. Even in the dim light she could see the anguish and pain.

And guilt.

“Levi?” Her voice cracked. “What’s going on?” Apprehension raced through her muscles.

He tightened his grip on her hand. “We need to talk.” He sounded next to tears.

“I’m coming too.” Truman stood. “Outside. Now.”

Mercy glanced toward the kitchen, hearing the faint murmur of voices. What did Levi do?

Outside she slipped on a jacket, zipped it up to her chin, and buried her hands in the pockets. With the sun gone, the chill reminded her that winter weather was coming fast. Warm days would soon be a faint memory. She sniffed, inhaling the fresh crispness that hinted at snow and ice.

Levi looked sick. His eyes were bloodshot and his shoulders stooped. He wouldn’t make eye contact. Truman stood silently beside her, and she wondered what’d made him insist on listening to their conversation.

“I might have an idea of who took Rose,” Levi started.

White-hot shock raced through Mercy. “Who? Tell the police. Now!”

Levi held up his hands. “Hear me out first. I could be wrong.”

“No! If you have an idea, we need to get on it now!”

“Give me sixty seconds, Mercy!”

“I suspect you’ve already wasted half a day,” Truman shot back. “Start talking, Levi. Fast.”

Levi seemed to crumble beneath his coat. “Remember how I told you I disposed of . . . that thing by myself?”

Mercy couldn’t speak.

“Jesus Christ,” said Truman. “Someone helped you get rid of the body?”

“He knows?” Levi hissed.

“He knows some,” Mercy stated, her mind spinning. “He knows we shot our attacker and you took care of it.”

“Oh Lord.” Levi turned away, pressing his hands against his eyes. “I’m going to prison.”

“I told Mercy I’d keep her story quiet until I saw a need for the truth to come out. I didn’t think it was hurting anyone, but it sounds like that might have changed?” Truman asked. “Who was it?”

“Craig Rafferty.”

Truman sucked air in between his teeth. “He helped you get rid of the body?”

“Yeah.” Levi still couldn’t look either of them in the eye. “I didn’t know who else to call that night.” He cleared his throat. “The guy’s name was Kenny.”

“The one who died?” Mercy said faintly.

Levi nodded. “He and Craig were the men there that night.”

“What? You’ve known all along it was Craig Rafferty who attacked us?” Mercy’s knees shook as Truman swore at Levi. He took a step toward her brother and she grabbed his jacket, holding him back.

Levi knew it was Craig? And did nothing?

She struggled to breathe. The boards under her feet seemed to rock as if she were on a boat, and she swayed, holding fast to Truman’s coat for balance.

“Wait! Hear me out. It’s not what you think,” Levi pleaded.

“You’d better start talking faster,” Truman threatened. Mercy was falling to pieces with every sentence, but Truman seemed to get bigger, taller, more looming. Quiet waves of anger floated around him.

“You saw Craig’s vehicle out the window,” Mercy stated. “At the time you said you couldn’t see who it was.”


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